On February 8th, 2018, a crack in the glass ceiling shattered. WHBF-TV Reporter Tahera Rahman became the first reporter in America to wear a hijab in an on-air broadcast.
The Excellence in Journalism 2018 session “Hiring Managers: Diversity isn’t a Pipeline Problem. It Could Be You,” was a panel featuring Nexstar station WHBF/WKLB-TV News Director Mike Mickle and Tahera Rahman. Executive Editor of The Tylt, and session moderator Will Federman asked the pair questions regarding diversity in the workplace and local communities.
Questions about this groundbreaking event, diversity in communities and solutions to improving cultural communications were discussed throughout the session. “We realized this was a barrier that was being broken, that was significant,” said Mickel.
Breaking the glass ceiling is not an easy achievement. Iowa reporter Rahman discussed her beginnings in broadcast journalism. As a woman of Islamic faith, she acknowledged a possible struggle of achieving her dreams.
And her story become widespread through other local news outlets and was featured on Live with Kelly and Ryan. To close out the session Loyola Multimedia Journalism Program Director Beth Konrad, Rahman's former professor, said “She’s into this for life.”
After an internship with CBS News, Rahman said she searched for other pursuits in journalism. Rahman went through the interview process with an undisclosed company and the position went to another candidate. She said, “I thought I had the position and it slipped. It was hard news to grasp.”
However, her dreams did not stop there. Despite the on-air scrutiny that Rahman anticipated as live talent, Mickle simply points out that her skills were more than what others saw. “She was above the competition.”
After getting an offer from WHBF-TV she was ready to be a reporter, but what was her community like at work? She did not expect a positive response from the community, especially because she looks different from her audience.
Rahman said preparing for her job was a mental process. “I felt like it was important because A) it shows a momentous time and B) it hasn’t happened yet.”
It created a discussion about the struggles others face and opens the minds of audience members. The support of her family and coworkers during the process outweighed the bad: “[for every] one negative comment, there were at least a dozen positive ones,” said Rahman.
When asked how having a diverse team in the workplace impacts team work over all, Rahman’s response was that their team is a family by supporting our pursuits. “Our team keeps each other balanced because of our diverse backgrounds,” Mickle agreed.
Regarding diversity and her impact on community she proudly said, “In some small part of their life, it empowers kids. Especially minority children who think their voices aren’t heard and develops a sense of trust within the community because there are times where there is the distrust of media.”
Through Mickle and Rahman’s journey, they have seen how diversity does make a positive impact in the community. “Issues minorities have been facing are now eroding with the change of the times,” said Rahman. On the selection of diverse candidates in the newsroom, Rahman wants to make an impact in the future of the selection process. “I hope my stories and my diversity will work for itself and my religion and diversity will speak for itself.”
Federman also asked how the future journalists can improve their work performance. Rahman advised others to take criticism seriously and grow from your experiences. It can be difficult to do so when you put your heart into your work. Yet it is critical to have an open mind especially in the journalism industry. Rahman’s personal story faced criticism, but she doesn’t regret moving forward.
“If we didn’t do this story, we wouldn’t be here,” she said. “You can do anything, this is what America is all about.”